Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/318

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

Public bodies distributed throughout this country and our possessions are organizing various enterprises with that object. Agricultural research is now everywhere admitted a proper subject for university support and direction.

With the institution of the development grant a national subsidy is provided on a considerable scale in England for the first time.

At such a moment the scope of this applied science and the conditions under which it may most successfully be advanced are prominent matters of consideration in the minds of most of us. We hope great things from these new ventures. We are, however, by no means the first to embark upon them. Many of the other great nations have already made enormous efforts in the same direction. We have their experience for a guide.

Now, it is not in dispute that wherever agricultural science has been properly organized valuable results have been attained, some of very high importance indeed; yet with full appreciation of these achievements, it is possible to ask whether the whole outcome might not have been greater still. In the course of recent years I have come a good deal into contact with those who in various countries are taking part in such work, and I have been struck with the unanimity that they have shown in their comments on the conditions imposed upon them. Those who receive large numbers of agriculture bulletins purporting to give the results of practical trials and researches will, I feel sure, agree with me that with certain notable exceptions they form on the whole dull reading. True they are in many cases written for farmers and growers in special districts, rather than for the general scientific reader, but I have sometimes asked myself whether those farmers get much more out of this literature than I do. I doubt it greatly. Nevertheless, to the production of these things much labor and expense have been devoted. I am sure, and I believe that most of those engaged in these productions themselves feel, that the effort might have been much better applied elsewhere. Work of this unnecessary kind is done, of course, to satisfy a public opinion which is supposed to demand rapid returns for outlay, and to prefer immediate apparent results, however trivial, to the long delay which is the almost inevitable accompaniment of any serious production. For my own part, I greatly doubt whether in this estimate present public opinion has been rightly gauged. Enlightenment as to the objects, methods and conditions of scientific research is proceeding at a rapid rate. I am quite sure, for example, that no organization of agricultural research now to be inaugurated under the Development Commission will be subjected to the conditions laid down in 1887 when the experimental stations of the United States were established. From them it is decreed in Sec. 4 of the Act of Establishment: